When you marry, there’s an unspoken “knowing” that you and your partner can both care for yourselves. When you have a baby, it’s a different thing. You have been blessed with the responsibility of honoring a being, watching and knowing that being, and helping guide them to their intended purpose in life. This isn’t an easy task because just as you think you have it figured out, your child does a 180 on you and is ready to look around the next shiny curtain. In my mind, a good parent watches for that moment and encourages the child’s innate curiosity.
Life was humming along well. I had two beautiful children - a 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. We had just come home from a trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Ben hopped out of the car and was met by a neighbor friend rushing across the street to welcome him home. “Catch” he says and the football hit Ben right in the eye. Fast forward to the next morning... his eye appeared to be bulging slightly from his face. Mom instinct kicks in and off we head to the doctor. Fast forward to the unimaginable reality that my son, 72 hours later, had been diagnosed with orbital rhabdomyosarcoma (a soft cell tumor behind his right eye), had eye surgery to remove the tumor and was having his first chemo treatment. The ball didn’t cause the tumor - it just helped us find it sooner.
Over the next two and a half years, Ben went through the wringer. Cancer came and went three times. He had countless rounds of chemo and radiation, four surgeries, we moved out-of-state for five weeks for experimental radiation. Then we went to multiple specialists all over the country and had consultations with doctors worldwide with one simple goal - to save his life.
One early morning in September it was pouring rain. Hospice had come to our home to check on us and we were told it would be any time now. Ben was laying between my legs on my bed. My husband looked at my son, whose breathe had become more shallow and faint and said, "We are here when you are ready." Ben looked at me, smiled and squeezed my hand and then did the same for my husband. Then his eyes closed and what was left was his physical form.
I am sharing about this moment for one simple reason... To let people know that our children are blessings - real gifts NOT possessions. If you are lucky enough to be blessed with this kind of miracle in your life please know that it is truly that - A MIRACLE. Ben had more determination and knowing than anyone I have ever met. He never complained and just knew that there was a purpose to his time on earth. He never let this medical nightmare destroy his spirit or his determination for what he wanted more than anything in his life - to love and care for animals.
In his short eight years on this planet, he did LOTS of good. He taught a community what it means to truly love and care, how to help support one another, and to seek a higher purpose. For Ben that was loving animals. In his last two years of his life, he raised $10,000 for a local animal shelter. His dream was that one day, animal shelters would not exists because all animals would have a home.
Now it’s been 10 years. This would be his senior year of high school and Ben’s mission is still humming along. Since his passing, with the help of his friends we have provided 11 veterinary scholarships worldwide for humane cure and treatment of animals and raised money to build a state-of-the-art veterinary center for yet another local shelter. We have a choice in life - to be angry about what we are not getting because of the loss of a loved one or remember what a gift it was to be blessed with their presence. Ben is a daily reminder to me that, at the end of the day, it’s about honoring those you love and their intended purpose. After all, that’s the gift of parenting and the gift of life.